If we as the body of Christ do not receive circumcision, we will not be sealed in the name of God at the end of the age. This is not referring to the natural circumcision that the Jews observed, but a circumcision of the heart.
In the book of Revelation, Jesus shows John what is to come at the end of the current age, moving into the Millennial Kingdom (the time we are in now). In Revelation chapter 7, John describes those who will be saved. It is imperative that we as Christians understand what is being said.
“Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed…” (Revelation 7:2-4)
John the Revelator says the servants of God, who are sealed on their foreheads, are the 144,000* from the tribes of the children of Israel. The 144,000 is not a literal number of people; Rev 7:9 tells us this. John is prophesying that only a remnant (144,000) of those from within the church (Israel) will receive salvation. How do we know that “Israel” is referencing the church? Abraham was the founding father of the Jewish nation of Israel and in Galatians 3:29 Paul says
“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Isaiah also prophesied that only a remnant will be saved from Israel.
“And though the people of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant of them shall be saved.”
(Isaiah 10:22, The Brenton Septuagint Translation)
Paul expounds on two “Israel’s”; physical Israel vs spiritual Israel:
6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED.” 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. (Romans 9:6-8)
Paul explains that just because someone may be Israelite by physical descendancy, does not make them an Israelite in God’s eyes. Nor are they a child of Abraham and heir of the promise because they can physically trace their family lineage back to Abraham.
Let’s take a deeper look at this promise (covenant) of Abraham that Paul mentions in Galatians. In Genesis we read:
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. 2 And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. 8 Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” 9 And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. 13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
The proof that someone is a descendant of Abraham is circumcision, but there is a deeper understanding here that we cannot overlook.
Notice in verse 7 that God’s covenant with Abraham was everlasting?
Everlasting means “lasting or enduring through all time: eternal” (1),
thus the covenant did not end. Everlasting means even after Jesus died on the cross, this covenant is still active. You may ask how this covenant is still active when
“Jesus did everything at the cross and did away with the law”.
This is a common misunderstanding in the church today. The Law of Moses was not annulled through Jesus. In Matthew 5:17, when Jesus says He did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfil it; the word fulfill means to “fully preach” (2) and “to cause God’s will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be.” (3) Throughout Jesus’ ministry on the earth, He was teaching those with eyes to see and ears to hear how to walk out the law spiritually through understanding the deeper meaning of Scripture. Paul tells us there is the letter of the law that kills and the spirit of the law that gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6).
The true Jew is one who is circumcised in the heart; understanding the spirit of the law, not the letter:
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
The circumcision of the heart is the only way to salvation, not the physical circumcising of the male member. In Hebrew understanding, the male speaks of the spirit man and female speaks of the soulish/carnal nature. Paul writes to the church in Colossae concerning the circumcision of the heart:
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12)
Paul is saying that the proof of circumcision of the heart is being free of sin, and this comes through understanding and walking in the spirit of the law. Paul was not the only one to write about the circumcision of the heart so plainly. In Deuteronomy, Moses says to the children of Israel,
“Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer,” (Deuteronomy 10:16).
Further on he states,
“And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live,” (Deuteronomy 30:6).
The prophet Jeremiah confirms the circumcision of the heart also:
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, And take away the foreskins of your hearts, You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My fury come forth like fire, And burn so that no one can quench it, Because of the evil of your doings.”
Throughout scripture, true circumcision was always of the heart. The circumcision comes through revelation; the destruction or removal of the veil, (4) which is the flesh (Hebrews 10:20) or the carnal nature of the beast (5) (1 Cor 3:3).
Irenaeus, a second-century Early Church Father, here discusses the circumcision in the natural being symbolic of the circumcision of the heart, why circumcision is necessary for the body of Christ and briefly, how we obtain it:
Moreover, we learn from the Scripture itself, that God gave circumcision, not as the completer of righteousness, but as a sign, that the race of Abraham might continue recognisable. For it declares: “God said unto Abraham, every male among you shall be circumcised; and ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, as a token of the covenant between Me and you.” (Gen_7:9-11) This same does Ezekiel the prophet say with regard to the Sabbaths: “Also I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord, that sanctify them.” (Eze_20:12) And in Exodus, God says to Moses: “And ye shall observe My Sabbaths; for it shall be a sign between Me and you for your generations.” (Exo_21:13) These things, then, were given for a sign; but the signs were not unsymbolic, that is, neither unmeaning nor to no purpose, inasmuch as they were given by a wise Artist; but the circumcision after the flesh typified that after the Spirit. For “we,” says the apostle, “have been circumcised with the circumcision made without hands.” (Col_2:11) And the prophet declares, “Circumcise the hardness of your heart.” (Deu_10:16, LXX. version) But the Sabbaths taught that we should continue day by day in God’s service. “For we have been counted,” says the Apostle Paul, “all the day long as sheep for the slaughter;” (Rom_8:36) that is, consecrated [to God], and ministering continually to our faith, and persevering in it, and abstaining from all avarice, and not acquiring or possessing treasures upon earth. (Mat_6:19) Moreover, the Sabbath of God (requietio Dei), that is, the kingdom, was, as it were, indicated by created things; in which [kingdom], the man who shall have persevered in serving God (Deo assistere) shall, in a state of rest, partake of God’s table.
And that man was not justified by these things, but that they were given as a sign to the people, this fact shows, — that Abraham himself, without circumcision and without observance of Sabbaths, “believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God.” (Jas_2:23) Then, again, Lot, without circumcision, was brought out from Sodom, receiving salvation from God. So also did Noah, pleasing God, although he was uncircumcised, receive the dimensions [of the ark], of the world of the second race [of men]. Enoch, too, pleasing God, without circumcision, discharged the office of God’s legate to the angels although he was a man, and was translated, and is preserved until now as a witness of the just judgment of God, because the angels when they had transgressed fell to the earth for judgment, but the man who pleased [God] was translated for salvation. Moreover, all the rest of the multitude of those righteous men who lived before Abraham, and of those patriarchs who preceded Moses, were justified independently of the things above mentioned, and without the law of Moses. As also Moses himself says to the people in Deuteronomy: “The Lord thy God formed a covenant in Horeb. The Lord formed not this covenant with your fathers, but for you.” (Deu_5:2)
Why, then, did the Lord not form the covenant for the fathers? Because “the law was not established for righteous men.” (1Ti_1:9) But the righteous fathers had the meaning of the Decalogue written in their hearts and souls, that is, they loved the God who made them, and did no injury to their neighbour. There was therefore no occasion that they should be cautioned by prohibitory mandates (correptoriis literis), because they had the righteousness of the law in themselves. But when this righteousness and love to God had passed into oblivion, and became extinct in Egypt, God did necessarily, because of His great goodwill to men, reveal Himself by a voice, and led the people with power out of Egypt, in order that man might again become the disciple and follower of God; and He afflicted those who were disobedient, that they should not contemn their Creator; and He fed them with manna, that they might receive food for their souls (uti rationalem acciperent escam); as also Moses says in Deuteronomy: “And fed thee with manna, which thy fathers did not know, that thou might know that man doth not live by bread alone; but by every word of God proceeding out of His mouth doth man live.” (Deu_8:3) And it enjoined love to God, and taught just dealing towards our neighbour, that we should neither be unjust nor unworthy of God, who prepares man for His friendship through the medium of the Decalogue, and likewise for agreement with his neighbour, — matters which did certainly profit man himself; God, however, standing in no need of anything from man.
And therefore does the Scripture say, “These words the Lord spoke to all the assembly of the children of Israel in the mount, and He added no more;” (Deu_5:22) for, as I have already observed, He stood in need of nothing from them. And again, Moses says: “And now Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul?” (Deu_10:12) Now these things did indeed make man glorious, by supplying what was wanting to him, namely, the friendship of God; but they profited God nothing, for God did not at all stand in need of man’s love. For the glory of God was wanting to man, which he could obtain in no other way than by serving God. And therefore Moses says to them again: “Choose life, that thou mayest live, and thy seed, to love the Lord thy God, to hear His voice, to cleave unto Him; for this is thy life, and the length of thy days.” (Deu_30:19, Deu_30:20) Preparing man for this life, the Lord Himself did speak in His own person to all alike the words of the Decalogue; and therefore, in like manner, do they remain permanently with us, receiving by means of His advent in the flesh, extension and increase, but not abrogation.
The laws of bondage, however, were one by one promulgated to the people by Moses, suited for their instruction or for their punishment, as Moses himself declared: “And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments.” (Deu_4:14) These things, therefore, which were given for bondage, and for a sign to them, He cancelled by the new covenant of liberty. But He has increased and widened those laws which are natural, and noble, and common to all, granting to men largely and without grudging, by means of adoption, to know God the Father, and to love Him with the whole heart, and to follow His word unswervingly, while they abstain not only from evil deeds, but even from the desire after them. But He has also increased the feeling of reverence; for sons should have more veneration than slaves, and greater love for their father. And therefore the Lord says, “As to every idle word that men have spoken, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment.” (Mat_12:36) And, “he who has looked upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart;” (Mat_5:28) and, “he that is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Mat_5:22) [All this is declared,] that we may know that we shall give account to God not of deeds only, as slaves, but even of words and thoughts, as those who have truly received the power of liberty, in which [condition] a man is more severely tested, whether he will reverence, and fear, and love the Lord. And for this reason Peter says “that we have not liberty as a cloak of maliciousness,” (1Pe_2:16) but as the means of testing and evidencing faith. (6)
Irenaeus confirms that the circumcision introduced in the Old Testament was only symbolic for the coming age. He explains that God was showing us, through things in the natural, how the Kingdom of God works. He compares the circumcision of the flesh to the Sabbath and explains that those abstaining from all vices of the flesh are those who will enter into the Sabbath rest with God at the end of the age. The Sabbath that the Jews observed, abstaining from certain physical things, was only a sign (symbolic) of the spiritual law. Irenaeus explains that even the patriarchal fathers of the faith who hadn’t received circumcision in the natural, were accounted as righteous in God’s eyes because they had the spirit of the law of God written in their hearts and walked in that understanding. When men fell further away from God and the law was not written in their hearts, it was necessary that God brought the Law through Moses to the people, to give signs of what would ultimately bring the spiritual children of Israel back to God in the last days. Irenaeus confirms that when Jesus died, it wasn’t to come to do away with the Law, but that He brought in the Law of Liberty (the right understanding or spiritual understanding) of God, to be written in our hearts. He goes on to explain that the Law of Liberty did not annul the Law of Moses, in fact it caused the Law to go much deeper; instead of abstaining from physical sin, for example murder, we are to not even have wrong thoughts about others in our minds. Through the revelation of Christ and His nature within us, that is when we receive the true circumcision of the heart which allows us to overcome all the vices of the flesh. Before Jesus came, it would have been impossible for us to completely walk in the spirit of the law, because Jesus showed the way through His life and His sacrifice.
Origen, a third-century early church father wrote the following, expounding further on what the circumcision of the heart looks like, and how we receive it.
It remains for us to describe also circumcision of the heart. If there is anyone who burns with obscene desires and shameful passions and, to speak briefly, who “commits adultery in his heart,” this man is “uncircumcised in heart.” But he also is “uncircumcised in heart” who holds heretical views in his mind and arranges blasphemous assertions against knowledge of Christ in his heart. But he is circumcised in heart who guards the pure faith in sincerity of conscience, about whom it can be said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”. . . But what is the “stone sword” and what is the “sword” with which the people of God are circumcised? Hear the Apostle saying: “For the word of God is living and effectual and sharper than any two-edged sword reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” That, therefore, is the sword with which we ought to be circumcised, about which the Lord Jesus says: “I did not come to send peace upon the earth, but the sword.” (7)
Origen explains that an uncircumcised heart is when the lusts of the flesh are ruling in us. He even explains that false teaching and wrong understanding of the Word of God is also an uncircumcised heart. Those circumcised in the heart are those that guard and continue in the right understanding of the Word of God, becoming the nature of Christ. Origen confirms that it is only through the revelation of the Word of God, that divides between the flesh (carnality) and the spirit, that we can receive the circumcision of the heart.
As we read in the beginning, there is only a remnant of the Church that will be saved at the end of the age (the time we are in now) , and that remnant is the seed of Abraham, or those with the circumcision of the heart. The circumcision of the heart comes through the word of the high priest/apostles that bring the right understanding of the Word of God, cutting all flesh (veils) away as we continue to be obedient to that Word. Eventually, if we are faithful in the revelation of the Word, and endure to the end, the whole heart will be circumcised; meaning there will be no more barriers between us and the Father.
*Read more about the 144,000 here https://voh.church/resources/the-144000_236872/
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary: everlasting https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/everlasting
- Strong’s Dictionary: Fulfill (G4137)
- Thayer’s Dictionary: Fulfill (G4137)
- Thayer’s Dictionary: Destroy (G575) and Veil (G2572)
- Thayer’s Dictionary: Carnal (G4561)
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book IV
- Origen, Genesis Homily III
All scripture references from The Holy Bible: New King James Version: NKJV. Thomas Nelson, 2010, unless stated otherwise.